Halter breaking a show heifer to lead is a process that begins months prior to actually entering the show ring with a successfully trained animal. You’ll begin by choosing a show heifer with good conformation and then working with your heifer daily to make sure she trusts you.
Activities such as petting her daily and feeding her on a regular schedule are necessary for her overall health, but also serve the purpose of building trust between the two of you. Plan to spend a lot of time with your show heifer. If possible, it’s a good idea for other people to pet her and spend time around her as well so she becomes accustomed to activity and voice around her that aren’t as familiar. When she’s housed in a barn during the fair or a show, she will be hearing many new sounds and experience new smells.
You’ll want to begin halter breaking your show heifer about six weeks prior to the time you plan to show her in the ring. Some heifers respond quickly, whereas others are a bit more difficult. Much of your success depends on the personality of your heifer, but don’t be discouraged. Continue to take the proper training steps and she will eventually get it.
To begin halter breaking a show heifer to lead, allow her to become familiar with a halter by leaving her tied for short time frames. One to two hours at a time is an appropriate length of time to start. As you lengthen that time, make certain she has food and water. A stable halter is designed to remain loose under her jaw even if she’s pulling on it, so use this style of halter at first. You’ll want to remain near so she doesn’t become frightened and hurt herself. Perhaps try this training exercise while you’re doing your barn chores or feeding the other animals.
Another technique is to lead your show heifer in a halter to her food and water each morning and evening so she has motivation to go with you. Despite herself, she will become more accustomed to wearing the halter and being led. Switch to a rope halter once she seems comfortable with the stable halter. A rope halter does tighten under the jaw with the lead rope to the left, giving you a bit more control over her movements. The nose band of the halter should be low on the heifer’s nose.
The very first time a show heifer is taken into an open area on a halter, a person experienced with training heifers should be in control. The young person planning to show the heifer should be nearby watching everything so they’ll understand how to handle the heifer properly. Walking by her side is the best way (usually) to get her to walk with you. When she stops, stop with her and give encouragement and then walk again. Continue the process for about 20 minutes and then put her back in her pen. If she balks, you’re not likely to get her to move by yanking on the lead rope, so have someone available to nudge her from behind or to twist her tail.
There are other techniques for halter breaking a show heifer to lead, but this is the most tried and true technique that seems to work well on most show heifers.